Separate Thanksgivings

Another holiday season.

It does get easier.

My mom wants to know if I’m coming for Thanksgiving.  I’m not, but I know it’s my grandfather’s last.  I know how far I can go and I know how far I can stretch and I’m at my limit this year.  If that makes me selfish, I’m selfish.

I don’t understand why my mom is mad at me.  She lied to me and told me to blackmail my dad for sexual abuse that never happened.  And then when I was depressed, she called me manipulative.  She used me so badly and it’s like I’m not allowed to be angry about it.  In fact, I have to take the blame for it because I wasn’t tough enough to withstand the depression.

Every once and awhile we’ll email news articles to one another with a clever little line under the link.

It’s like a funnel where we once had this thick mixture of relationship, but now it has been squeezed into such a narrow strip that by the time it comes out the other side – it’s not really much of anything.

 

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Boundaries

Today I officially understand the boundaries between therapist and patient.  Which, interestingly enough, is the exact reason I started going.

I just didn’t realize I’d feel so strongly.

Stupid. Narcissistic. Cliche. Cute. Pathetic. Delusional.

I have no parents left.

He kept hinting around that he thought more of me than just a patient and instead of realizing it as a polite act, I thought he loved me.  He wanted to introduce me to a celebrity writer he knew.  He said I was like one of his nieces.

He told me he has cancer, but the good kind.  He’s getting some sort of surgery done next week and I bought him a gift.  I bought him a compass in case he felt lost and wrapped it into a tiny package.

I can’t accept. It’s just you know, a therapist can’t accept gifts from a patient.

My face was on fire.  I was about to leave, wedged in between the doorway.  I kept smiling and nodding as if it wasn’t even something.  And he kept trying to explain.  I wanted him to just stop and let me go. And he kept trying to explain.  And all I could see were eyes of overwhelming pity and for the first time I realized why people wouldn’t want that.

Of course they can’t accept.  Because it’s against the rules.  Because he respects the boundaries of respect when the line is clearly drawn.  He will not be my parent and what’s more awful is that he never was.

Gutted

I can tell he’s losing it.  It’s not hard to tell, really.  Emails with colorful, overly-exaggerated language.  I know his facial expressions are scrunched into a contorted mess of lines.

‘Shredding America.’  ‘Ripping apart our country.’   Which is true.  However.  There is an urgency to his tone that makes me think he is going to explode. Soon.  I pity those around him who have to hear the obsessing.  I, too, am frightened of the future, but this has been my life all along.  Living under someone diagnosed with NPD is like living in a cage with invisible bars of steel.

I think about moving out of the country frequently.   If I act now, when he is at his most vulnerable/impulsive, I may succeed in securing a foundation.  It will be tricky and there would be many negotiations with high stakes and high emotions.  But, I might get myself free.   I have figured out a place.  I have two advisors who understand business both here and abroad.  I am trying to figure out land investments, and the cost of labor vs. tourism income.  It’s an elaborate plan and lots of things need to happen to make it okay.  I’ve got three years.

I wonder if I’ll see my family again.  But even if I stayed I would still be wondering the same thing.

Bicycle

I’m outside a big house with shutters.  It’s mine, but it seems larger than normal.  That’s because I’m a kid – maybe five or six.

I’m riding on a white chunky bicycle, pedaling away from the house.  It’s evening and I’m traveling down the road slowly.  I look back at the house and then turn around.  I step inside, walk around the hallways in search for someone, but no one is there.  I go back outside and get on the bike.

Every evening I will ride the bicycle down the street and then come back to the house.  I ride every day, but I don’t get any older.  One day I get on the bicycle and ride out of the neighborhood and down the street and away from the town.

I will be back in the winter.

 

I woke up with pain in both sides of my back.  I will not be back in the winter.

I am also not going anywhere.

toothpaste

I had a dream I was sitting at a table next to a hotel swimming pool.

There were a few of us.  Blurred faces, legs crossed.  Leaning halfway into the chairs, we ate with our fingers.  I bit into a roll of bread and a back tooth fell out.  When someone told a joke, I covered my mouth with a cloth napkin and spit the tooth away.

Later on I entered an old-fashioned powder room.  I waited with several women by the sink while the attendants offered scented napkins.  I opened my mouth and stared in the mirror.  Another back tooth loose.

At least it’s not noticeable.

I woke up this morning and went to the sink.  The toothpaste was completely squeezed.

Dreams

North Korea

I am sitting in a class room with three people I don’t know.  I am talking to my friend over the computer when he says: the world is going to end in one minute.

Do I tell the three other people?  There’s nothing they can do about it.  But they might want to know?  Most of the dream, I am debating.

One minute later, ashes fall from the sky and I think: maybe this is all that will happen.  Maybe it’s not the end, just different.  But then I see the tanks.

North Korean tanks are barreling toward us and there is nothing we can do.  They are two blocks away.  One block away.  They yell at us to get on the ground and crawl backwards in front of their war vehicles.  If we can’t crawl fast enough, we will be plowed over.

The others accept it faster than I do.  They are on the ground before I see them crouching.  People from the tanks are screaming in staccato, words I can’t understand.  I know I have to get on the ground.  I know what they are saying.

I lower myself to the pavement.  I feel my hands contort behind me.   They bend backwards with my feet.  My stomach is to the sky like the rest of everyone else who is now scurrying backwards.  I can see the ashes and I wonder if they want us crawling backwards so that we know we are exposed.

And then it is time to crawl.

This can’t be happening.  This can’t be real.  It is real.  Disbelief.  And then we begin.  As if by crawling I will wake myself up from this terrible dream.  But, I won’t.  Because it is really happening.  There is no way out, just further.

 

Public Fountain

It seemed like a good idea.  It was evening and the weather was warm.  The water was warm.  I swam under, looked at the shiny copper.  Other people were swimming.  It was fine.  And then it was night time.

The fountain turned chilly, but I didn’t realize it.  Hours later, everyone was gone.  I was cold, it was dark, I decided to get out.  I tried swimming, but I could no longer move.  My legs were frozen.

 

The Room

I’m in the room and the door is behind me.  I can hear the hallway.  At least two people are standing above me, yelling at me.  I don’t want to do it.  White walls, white table.

 

The Ocean

I’m standing at the beach when it starts to rain.  Only a sprinkle.  The beach is so white and the water is so grey.  I’m looking for the birds.

It starts to rain.  Not hard, so I stay longer.  There aren’t any sand castles and there aren’t any animals.  The water is crashing around.  Exciting.

It starts to pour.  I’m getting soaked and I know I have to go in.  I dig my feet out of the sand and stand up.  I turn around.

I’m drowned by a wave.

A run in

 

She was wearing almost the same shirt as me.  When I said so, she pointed out the chest pocket on mine.  Straight, tan, boxy and to the hip.  She used to wear the ones with chest pockets for her Marlboro Reds.  Out of the house they migrated to her back pocket.  Mine are tucked away in the bottom of my overflowing purse.  A pair of cheap sunglasses, a handmade wallet with several ones and an outdated ID card, several scrap pieces of paper with scribbled insights of genius thinking, and 8 packs of orange gum for ‘quitting season’, sits scrambled on top.

We all sat together at a brunch table that wasn’t any of ours.  My extended family and I, excited to see each other, but cautious.  I try not to make it seem awkward by leaning back, talking calmly, and making jokes.  My mother does the same.  We are at our best when we are uncomfortable.

The Weakness Scale

How can I tell someone what has happened to me in a quick and tidy way? If you lose a child, you get the point across swiftly. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen to someone. It’s a loss that is cut clean. There is no chance of seeing the person and the love for them continues on because it wasn’t severed by choice.

I no longer have a strong relationship with my family because it is too difficult and too dangerous to talk to my parents? I talk to one of my siblings, but she doesn’t like to pick up the phone or answer emails or letters often because it is too painful, yet she never comes right out and says it, therefore the conversation is invisible? Sometimes I’ll get an email with a couple of lines in it from either parent and I’ll respond? Other times I don’t? My parents love me ‘in their own way’? My parents will and have put me in danger to get back at one another and they will do it again if they have the chance?

None of it is simple. All of it seems like self indulgence.

I can’t think about anyone but myself and my family.   I can’t think about anything else because I’m so hungry. The kind of hunger that won’t ever be satisfied.

 

To do something, to get angry or cry in front of people or use my body in some sort of way to show how painful this is, is to put a notch in the weakness and self indulgent belt.  You only get so many notches before you must feel better. If ‘getting it out’ doesn’t make you feel better and you’ve used all your notches, then you’re whining and you don’t want to get better. You want pity.  You want people to feel sorry for you and to make it better for you.  You’re passive aggressive.

If you never use a weakness ‘pass’, you never have to feel better (or pretend you are) and therefore, while you’re still in pain (which you would be anyway) you can at least have your dignity.

The weakness belt/scale doesn’t make a lot of sense when you try to explain it to someone, but it’s there. If you don’t get better and you’re acting out your feelings, then the acting out becomes dramatic.

 

My therapist tries to get me to do something with my feelings by provoking me, but it never works. I don’t know what he wants me to do. I ask him, but he just asks me where in my body I feel that pain and what I would want to do with that body part. I don’t feel my body. I am detached from it. My words are my expression – I don’t know how else to be.

“You intellectualize your feelings instead of feeling them.” It’s a familiar phrase. But how else do I handle it? What am I supposed to do?

I do want to physically do something about it.  My own private weakness is an embarrassment and an obsession that has started to creep its way into my dreams.  I wake up thinking about it.  Sometimes I can’t sleep.  The humiliation of hunger.  Only half a sandwich. Eating behind the door of a refrigerator. Crackers in the dark.

How do you describe the need to be breastfed? I want someone to know the pulling and the nagging and I want someone to give me the warmth they already have.  To share.

But this is disgusting. I scale walls to avoid bumping against people. Crossed legs. Crossed arms. That’s off limits.

Estrangement prompt

Writing prompt from EachStory

  9/17: Does mental illness & substance abuse play a role in your estrangement? How so?

I suppose every estrangement between a parent and a child would have some form of mental illness braided between them.

My dad.  I have to catch my language these days.  Words mean so much to me.  When I refer to my parents I say Mom or Dad, not my mom or my dad.  They belong to no one, they are too strong to own.  They encompass the entire genre of parent until there could only be one mom and one dad.  As Mom or as Dad, they are more powerful than anyone I could lay claim to.  As my mom or my dad, they have no capital letters.  Like everyone else’s parents, they are pieces of a whole.

Except not entirely.  My dad is not connected to anyone.  The diagnosis given to him was Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  He does not understand that other people are alive, like him, with feelings separate from his own.  Because he is not attached to anyone, he cannot be sure of his own reality.  He looks to others to validate his existence on a constant basis.  I was his mirror.

Being an object can be devastatingly lonely.  The only way to feel valued is if it is used.  Somehow, that made everything worse.

My mother doesn’t have mental illness.  Or at least she didn’t before she met my father.  He took that mirror and broke it, making her swallow all the shards.

Practical Ways To Combat Paranoia

Parental Alienation causes paranoia.  How can you trust yourself if you can’t trust your parents?  If I don’t trust myself, I lose my mind because I have no ‘real’ opinions or decisions.  Living in gray is good, but when you live too much in the gray, you become paranoid and paralyzed.  ‘Too many options, too many consequences.  Best to stay put.’

Things to remember when combating paranoia/How to trust:

  1. What do you feel physically?  Think: Stomach, body temperature, what are your hands doing?  The more discomfort, the more possible danger.
  2. Have you experienced a similar situation and what was the outcome?
  3. Respect yourself.  If you don’t love yourself, you won’t trust yourself.
  4. Make small decisions first to build up confidence for when making big decisions.
  5. Try new low risk activities and gauge how you handle it/what your successes are in perception of the activity.
  6. Don’t look too far forward in the future, you’ll make yourself insane.  Yes, there is good and bad in everything, but there is more good and more bad depending on which decision you make.
  7. Just because you make a decision, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind.  Most dilemmas allow room for mistakes.
  8. If someone says something that is not true, note it.  Don’t call them out on it.  Don’t pretend it didn’t happen.  Understand that just because they said it, doesn’t mean it becomes true.  And just because you didn’t retaliate, doesn’t mean it’s true either.
  9. Most people do not want to trick you.
  10. You are instinctively wired to protect yourself.  If you feel uncomfortable, there is a reason.  You don’t have to look for reasons to feel uncomfortable, it will happen naturally if you are in danger.